If the city’s request for state bonding money passes, the Minnesota State hockey teams can say goodbye to the yellow tin shed.
The Mavericks men’s and women’s hockey teams would move downtown to the Verizon Wireless Center permanently as part of a $31 million improvement and expansion project shown to Senate Bonding Committee on Tuesday at the university.
“This would give both the men’s and women’s teams the Division I facility that they need,” Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said.
The $5.8 million hockey portion of the project would be used to renovate locker rooms and coaches offices and add off-ice training areas underneath the stands on the west side of the arena for daily use.
When the project is finished, Mavericks teams would report to a facility closer to ones other teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association have.
“It gives the sense of a permanent, modern facility to call home,” Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said. “Student-athlete recruitment is the name of the game, and it’s a little bit of a challenge at All Seasons Arena.”
Currently, the MSU men’s team plays its games at the Verizon but practices at All Seasons Arena, where the women’s team also plays and practices. For each home series, the men pack up their gear and move downtown for three days.
“All Seasons Arena has been a great home to Maverick hockey for years,” MSU men’s coach Troy Jutting said. “But the reality is college hockey has passed it by a little bit, in terms of recruiting and in terms of having a place the kids can call home. Being at the civic center permanently would be a huge benefit.”
The plan also includes a new ice system and dasher boards, upgraded seating and concourse areas, and a new room for the hockey booster club.
The city is requesting $14.5 million in bonding funds for the entire Verizon Wireless Center project. An additional $14.5 million would come from the local option sales tax, which already has been authorized.
Three previous bonding requests that would have benefited MSU’s hockey programs have been vetoed since 2008. Those included projects that would have built an on-campus rink.
“We’ve been down this path in a different context,” Buisman said. “But it helped us flesh out our wants and needs list, and every one of those wants and needs can be included in this plan.”
Because ice will be in place throughout the school year and the teams will be practicing or playing there every day, some civic center events will be displaced. However, the rest of the project includes an auditorium addition and convention area improvements.
Only in rare cases would the teams not have access to the arena ice, Hentges said.
Both Hentges and Buisman said the teams’ move downtown also would free up much-needed ice time at All Seasons Arena for youth and high school hockey and figure skating.